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What are Country Conditions for Asylum?

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What are country conditions? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our offices here in St. Louis, Missouri, and San Diego, California.

Today, we’re talking about asylum, and we’re talking about country conditions. We had a client ask, “Well, what are country conditions, and why are they important?” When you apply for asylum, the easy part is filling out the form. The name of the form is the I-589. That’s how you start your asylum application. And of course, just as an aside, don’t forget that you need to file for asylum within one year of your last arrival. If you’re filing beyond one year, your case could be denied just for that simple fact. If you are filing more than one year, you need to explain why you’re filing more than one year.

But in any event, filling out the I-589 where they ask you all your biographical information and then the general basics of your asylum case, that’s the bare-bones minimum that you can do. Now, we’ve known a lot of people who didn’t hire a lawyer, and that’s all they did is they just filed their I-589. Now, hopefully, they included a personal statement. The personal statement is the most important part, I think, of a asylum application.

When we do an asylum case, what we do is we have an intake form so that we can get that I-589 correct and filled out completely. Then we talk to our client, and we get a full statement from them. We’ll go back and forth on this statement for about a month. It takes us about a month to get an asylum application on file. The reason for that is that we want our clients to give us all the details of their case. Then we want to organize it. Then we want to ask them questions based on what they’ve told us and give it more detail, more flavor, and to make it longer and stronger. We’ll even pause again. We’ll go back to our clients three or four times to really make sure that we have a really thorough explanation as to why our client fears persecution if they’re to return back home. That’s where country conditions come in next.

Now, it’s one thing for an asylum applicant to say that they need asylum because things are back bad back home in their home country, that they’re going to face persecution because of some condition that they have, or some status that they have, or their race or their religion, their political opinion, something like that. It’s one thing for them to say that. It’s another thing for an attorney to say that. So in the brief or in the statement that you file, the lawyer is going to sprinkle in a lot of advocacy to try to make the point.

But country conditions are important because you usually take that from neutral sources, and that can be from the State Department or from groups like Amnesty International or other NGOs that do an analysis as to what are the country conditions. What are the conditions? What is life like back in that home country? For instance, let’s say that you are a transgender person from Saudi Arabia. And let’s say that you are making the claim that if you go back to Saudi Arabia that you’re going to be tortured or killed or jailed because you’re transgender. Well, you want to support that application with what are called country conditions. Country conditions are reports or analysis or statistics, something objective that isn’t prepared by the client or by the lawyer that shows these are the conditions in that country right now. This is what it’s like to be a transgender person in Saudi Arabia.

So they might say, “Look, here are news stories about transgender people being thrown in jail or tortured or killed.” Or the State Department, when the State Department is acting correctly and not like it was under Mike Pompeo, but when they’re actually doing their job, and they’re talking about what’s life like for people who are transgender or who oppose the government or who are of a minority racial group, these are the country conditions. That’s what you want to include. So, you have your 589. You have your statement, and then the next thing is the country conditions. That’s where you really want to get that objective evidence. You want to highlight it. You want to make it very clear for the officer that it’s not just you and the attorney saying this. This is independent groups that don’t work for you, that you didn’t pay that can tie it all together and say, “Yeah, this is what it’s like.”

You might only use a couple of paragraphs out of those country conditions, but you highlight them, and you make it important. You make it crystal clear to the officer why conditions back in that home country warrant giving you asylum and not sending you back. So hopefully, that answers the question. We think it’s really important. One of the real benchmarks of a strong asylum application is the use of country conditions.

If you have questions about asylum or questions about country conditions, give us a call at (314) 961-8200. You can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. Be sure to join us on our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home. And if you liked this video, we ask you to please share it out on social, that you subscribe to our YouTube channel. And please join us every Tuesday and Thursday, usually at noon central time, where I’m answering as many of your immigration-related questions as I can in 60 minutes flat. Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

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